The Gentleman Drinker escapes pursuing goons and other such Large Men in the comfortable sanctuary of The Iron Duke.
The Iron Duke
11 Avery Row, Mayfair, London W1K 4AN
The streetpeople of London town were foraging cardboard boxes from outside the closed shops of Davies Street as I wandered toward Bond Street underground. It was the hour of ‘drink up or sod off home’, and I had lost cash, my temper and my dignity (in that order) at a local poker gathering of the League of Berks (henceforth they shall be known). I was all set to cash out and bugger off, when less than an hour later I was seven hundred knicker up and rather toasted on the Berks’ bourbon. I had made my excuses, and sashayed out with dignity regained and heavy pockets.
Winnings give a curious gravity to a man with a belly full of bourbon. Cobbles become polished landmines, alleys become a galleon’s gunports, ready to launch muggers at you. The moon gives everything a shimmering smear of potential danger, and a man looks for any port in a storm. Frobisher would certainly find himself lighter than when he arrived that evening. He’d borne the worst of my fortuitous streak, and now I was certain he would have Large Men come and fold me neatly in half.
Hotel bars leered at me with bright pink neon and polished wine glasses hung above soulless barmen. Oxford Street was brimming with idiots, and I felt the old Fear scratching at my stomach lining. A barfly resembled Frobisher. A shadow became a Large Man. I lurched right down Brook Street and, with a dexterity I have scarcely displayed since the Seoul Olympics, I performed something halfway between a pirouette and a Fosbury flop into what turned out to be Avery Row.
The Iron Duke sat halfway down this strange and most modernly-furnished of London alleys, the pub utterly anachronous with its old-world charm amongst white-painted granite and aluminium shop frontings. I strolled inside and noted several pairs of antique Wellington boots (geddit?) mounted on the walls. It’s a small sort of place, but being halfway down an alley, it was quiet enough. The décor is all oak and gilt-framed paintings, and the wall-mounted boots give a flippant yet friendly atmosphere to the place. It became quite clear within a moment that The Iron Duke is a Fuller’s pub (lots of Fuller’s beers for sale, that’s the trick, d’you see?).
I ordered a pint of Bengal Lancer (a crisp, spicy and nourishing IPA of good standing) and took the most sheltered nook within view of the door. No Large Men passed by for a good few minutes, and so at last I relaxed. I made my way into the deepest nook of the place, which was adorned with patriotic, chest-pounding battle paintings, which lifted my spirits no end. I shared the pub with a table full of what people now call City Boys (well-dressed, noisy oiks), a couple of couples and four middle-aged fellows who were engaged in a bitter competition to prove whose wife was the worst, or best, I forget. There was no music, just the soft murmurs of conversation and angelic clinks of glasses.
Mayfair being Mayfair, the prices were, well, Mayfair. The kitchen had closed a few hours ago, but promised some intriguing and old-fashioned bar snacks including hand-made scotch eggs (as opposed to the type made with one’s feet) and a Friday special of Beef Wellington, naturally. The beer was excellent, served to a typically high Fuller’s standard, and after two Bengal Lancers I could have taken on any number of Frobishers, or men of any size. The wine was popular with the City Boys, though one fellow had quaffed so much that his lips, gums and teeth all bore the dirty red sheen of it. Fellow looked like a bloody zombie. Spirits were well-picked, and I must confess to partaking of a few Dalwhinnies before the bell tolled for me.
When I was finally thrust out into the streets, they were soaked with rain, which was falling from the sky in that way that it does. Proper, British rain, the kind that makes you feel proud and soaked to the skin. Mentally poo-pooing the idea of a walk to the underground, I hailed a black cab and floated away into the night, on a cloud of good beer and residual warmth from a most pleasant pub indeed.
- Snug, cosy and boots galore
- Fantastic Fuller’s beers, bar snacks and better-than-average spirits
- Off the beaten track: a sanctuary from the hubbub of Oxford Street